In May of 1968, the Jimi Hendrix Experience headlined the Miami Pop Festival shortly after recording and Axis, Bold As Love
. The band was scheduled to play two sets on Saturday and two on Sunday, but a torrential downpour on the Sabbath kept them from performing at all. Since Saturday's set consisted mostly of material from Are You Experienced
, one has to wonder if Sunday's set would have had more recent material. Regardless, these recordings show the band in superior form, before the post-Electric Ladyland
releasing the classic
Of course, I am a stupendous Hendrix fan and there is little that I have heard that has actually disappointed me, but these songs, recorded by Jimi's engineer Eddie Kramer, are all terrific in both sound and performance. Jimi's guitar is positively monstrous at times, though, as always, he is capable of true beauty as well as power.
Opening with some classic bursts of noise, the group moves into their first hit, "Hey Joe", followed by the iconic rise of feedback signalling a terrific "Foxey Lady", with a wonderfully bombastic ending. I've never been a big fan of the song "Tax Free" - I've always thought it was a bit of a rambling jam and Jimi's originals (I can't remember who wrote this one) were far better. Of course, the band plays great, but the lack of direction in the "tune" breaks of the momentum of the set.
But they blast back in with a blistering take on "Fire" before slowing down for the superb, slow blues of "Hear My Train A-Comin'". This is an early take on this (don't know when they first started playing this, as they never did an "official" studio take) so it has some variations and - to my ears - a couple of nods to what would later be "Voodoo Chile". I've always loved the dark-themed "I Don't Live Today" and the guys do a fine version here, with Jimi's flawless tone and relentless whammy-bar work, not to mention the controlled feedback and maniacal rave-up ending!
Of course, a highlight of any of Jimi's sets was his experimentation in his slow blues number, "Red House", and this is no exception. The group uses extreme dynamics and Jimi pulls out all the stops to make this a truly memorable take on this classic blues. Of course, any Hendrix gig would not be complete without his biggest hit, "Purple Haze". Naturally, he stretches out the solo a bit, but overall, this is a pretty straightforward take, without the extra jam that he would later throw on the end.
The bonus tracks here are two songs from the earlier, afternoon show - "Fire" and "Foxey Lady" - both of which are not wildly different, though "Fire" is even more frantic and "Foxey..." is a bit slower and more sultry.
Another great collection from the treasure trove of Hendrix tapes. No wonder he remains the number one guitarist in most people's eyes!